Facing calls for his resignation, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta held a press conference today in Washington to address his handling of the 2007 case against Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire sex offender.
It didn’t go well.
Acosta, then a U.S. attorney in Florida, oversaw a sweetheart deal for Epstein, which required him to register as a sex offender and sentenced him to 13 months in prison. Epstein was allowed 12 hours of work release from the prison, six days a week. After a lengthy Miami Herald investigation was published last year, federal prosecutors in New York brought new charges against Epstein this week. That has placed renewed scrutiny on Acosta.
During the nearly hour-long press conference, Acosta declined several opportunities to apologize to Epstein’s alleged victims. Instead, he offered lawyerly, mild answers about his investigation, in essence arguing that while the deal the government cut with Epstein was bad, it was much better than what state prosecutors were requesting, and was better than nothing.
In the most astonishing moment of the press conference, Acosta seemed to shift the blame for Epstein’s light sentence onto the alleged victims for not speaking out. Asked what he’d tell those victims, Acosta said, “The message is you need to come forward. I heard this morning that another victim came forward and made horrendous, horrendous allegations, allegations that should never happen to any woman, much less a young girl. And as victims come forward, these cases can be brought and they can be brought by the federal government, they can be brought by state attorneys, and they will be brought.”